Wyoming Republican Governor Matt Mead signed a bill on Monday that paves the way for climate change to be taught in public schools across the state.
The bill repeals a ban on the adoption of controversial K-12 science standards that say global warming is real and caused by human activity. It stands as a major victory for science-education activists who have pushed hard for Wyoming to implement the curriculum.
The curriculum, known as the Next Generation Science Standards, has sparked controversy all over the U.S. as skeptics protest the teaching of climate change in schools. Thirteen states and the District of Columbia have adopted the standards so far, but the academic road map has faced hurdles in a number of other states, including Oklahoma and South Carolina. Wyoming lawmakers blocked the State Board of Education from considering the standards last year amid fears that teaching climate science could cast Wyoming's fossil-fuel industry in a negative light.
A patchwork of existing science standards has created vast disparities in the way climate change is taught in schools, a reality that alarms science-education advocates. The National Center for Science Education and Climate Parents, a nonprofit that works to promote teaching of climate change in schools, were among the groups that cheered the bill-signing on Monday.
"This is a great day for Wyoming students, teachers, parents, and everyone else who believes that kids need to learn climate science as part of a world-class science education," said John Friedrich, a senior campaigner with Climate Parents.
"We want students to have access to the most-up-to-date science. Kids should have a chance to learn the science," state Republican Representative John Patton, the author of the bill to undo the earlier ban on the standards, said in an interview in December.
But opponents of the science standards are sure to be dismayed.
"Do we want our children to believe that their fathers and mothers, particularly in my county, are polluting and destroying the Earth because of the energy industry that they have their jobs with?" state Republican Representative Scott Clem said in January during debate over the legislation.
It's now up to the State Board of Education to determine whether to adopt the controversial science standards. A panel of science educators, teachers, and other stakeholders unanimously recommended that the board adopt the academic framework in 2013.